Albums

Sounds Heard: Ingram Marshall and Jim Bengston—Alcatraz and Eberbach

Ingram Marshall: Alcatraz

In the two audio/visual compositions by Ingram Marshall (composer) and Jim Bengston (photographer) included on a recent surround-sound DVD release from Starkland, the artists offer an especially effective marriage of these two realms. Taken together, they arrive like a series of postcards relaying vivid, complex impressions of places—perhaps sent by residents now long gone.

Sounds Heard: Some American Albums

Some American Albums

In the wake of the many “Best of 2013” lists floating around, I wanted to highlight some recent album releases worthy of your time and attention. I didn’t select them for this reason, but it occurs to me that they each say something interesting and distinct about what it means to make American music right now.

Sounds Heard: Zevious—Passing Through the Wall

Zevious

This trio of guitarist Mike Eber, cousin Jeff Eber on drums, and bassist Johnny DeBlase make spare, taut music that is also chock full of dueling layers of angular counterpoint couched in polymeters. But despite its austerity and complexity, it’s surprisingly easy to listen to—perhaps an appropriate irony for a band whose name rhymes with devious!

Sounds Heard: Alvin Lucier—Still and Moving Lines

Still and Moving Lines

By challenging and subverting listening conventions, the four compositions by Alvin Lucier as performed by the Australian new music ensemble Decibel on a new Pogus CD open up minds and ears to push the listener into deeper realms of sonic perception.

Sounds Heard: Spektral Quartet—Chambers

Spektral Quartet—Chambers

Now in their fourth season, Spektral Quartet is currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago and already a well-known champion of Chicago composers, including the six whose works are featured on the group’s first commercial disc release.

Sounds Heard: Alvin Lucier—Orchestra Works

Alvin Lucier: Orchestra Works

I can’t think of another composer who manages, again and again, to create such an inverse relationship between the bald simplicity of the compositional plan and the crazy richness of the musical result. The more basic Lucier’s hypothesis—the more abstract the map—the more inexhaustible the experience.

Sounds Heard: Florestan Recital Project—Early Songs of Samuel Barber

Florestan Recital Project: Early Songs of Samuel Barber

One of the more endearingly paradoxical indications of compositional success is that interest gets piqued in music that even the composer had largely forgotten about. Unpublished works, unfinished works, juvenilia—when even that becomes fair game, you know you’ve (posthumously, usually) made it. The latest recordings from Florestan Recital Project pay that tribute to Samuel Barber (1910-1981).